Websites Aren’t What They Used to Be – Try SmugMug!

Six years ago I started a website showing my photography. It wasn’t easy. My husband had to program the site. He designed it and then put my images onto it. I always felt the need to redesign the site, but it was a lot of work for my husband, who was already bogged down with other work. Even when I wanted to put up an image, I had to ask him to do it for me because I don’t know how to program.

As the years went on I realized that I wasn’t putting up new images into my photography website. There were images on my site that I wanted taken off too. I just got tired of asking for help. I wanted a site that I could have total control over.

My husband got commissioned to do a website. So, he and I did some research and found a hosting site called SmugMug . Hallelujah!! This hosting site looked great. All my husband had to do was set up the basics for me, which required some programming. The rest is a breeze. I have total control. I put up images when I want to. I could take off images when I want to also.

Since SmugMug is a community, there’s more of a chance that other people will see my work. I also enjoy surfing the SmugMug community looking at other photographic web sites. SmugMug also has a feature called “keywords”. On their home page you can type in a keyword and everyone in the SmugMug community who has the same word for a specific image will show up in a gallery.

My website on SmugMug is fairly new. It’s only been up a month and a half. I think it looks great. It’s much better than my old site. And the best part is that I’m finally in control.

Don’t be Afraid to Take Pictures in Bad Lighting

It was a very overcast day.  It was actually pretty dark, and it was getting ready to rain.  I saw a nuthatch on a branch, so I decided to shoot, anyway.

I put my camera on a high ISO of 640, and the F stop was 5.6.  I had nothing to lose.  Either I would get an acceptable shot, or I wouldn’t.  If I decided not to shoot because of the bad lighting, I wouldn’t have anything.

This image is straight out of the camera.  I dropped it into Photoshop for some corrections.  The first thing I usually do is some simple cleanups.  In this image, I want to remove the white speck on the beak, and maybe a few dust spots here and there:

The next thing I do when I look at an image in Photoshop is to open up the levels pallete (Image / Adjustments / Levels).  See the right side of the levels box where the black line stops?  This is where I’m going to push the white triangle slider to the left to meet the black line, in order to increase the brightness:

This is how it looks after I made that level adjustment.  Already the image looks brighter:

The next thing I do is go into selective color (Image / Adjustments / Selective Color).  Because of the lighting conditions with this image, and the darkness of the image, there was a green cast.  Play with the sliders, because every image is different.  In this image, I want to get rid of the green cast.  I’ll pick green from the drop down color selection.  I did the same thing with white.  Because each image is different, you’ll have to experiment with these settings to get it looking the way you want:

Next, I go into brightness / contrast (Image / Adjustments / Brightness/Contrast).  For this image I added a +24 brightness and +7 contrast:

This setting added brightness and contrast to the whole image.  I wanted to make the bird a little brighter, and keep the background a little on the dark side, to emphasise the bird, so I took the history brush at 50% opacity, and just brushed around the outer edges of the image:

Here are the before and after images.  Not bad for bad lighting on a crappy, rainy day!

Getting Started With HDR

HDR is becoming extremely popular. The first time I saw an HDR image, it made me stop and take a very close look. I liked it. At first I couldn’t figure out how it was done, so I started doing research. I tried experimenting in Photoshop CS3. I felt frustrated. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I found an article on the Internet about HDR with picture examples. That was the beginning. Now I knew that it was called “HDR”, which means high dynamic range . I researched high dynamic range and found that there was a program called “Photomatix“. I was eager to purchase this program. The price isn’t bad, it’s under $100.00. I definitely think it’s worth the money. I have had success with it.

I think the secret to a successful HDR image starts with the camera. Before you even get started with Photomatix you need to take at least three exposures of the same image. The first exposure should be the normal exposure setting you’d use for the picture you’re taking. The other two exposures should be two stops over and two stops under. This means the first thing you need to do is get a good tripod. There is no way you can do this hand held:

Properly exposed image Under-exposed image (2 stops) Over-exposed image (2 stops)
Final Version

Open the Photomatix program. Hit the Generate HDR image tab. A dialog box will open up. This is where you’ll select your three images. After you’ve selected them, click OK:

Another dialog box will come up. Check off align source images. I always check off the correct horizontal and vertical shifts, just in case there was camera movement while I was taking my multiple exposures. I also check off the reduce ghosting artifacts setting. This is used for movement that occurs when you take an image with people who are walking or moving around. It doesn’t always work 100%, but it does a good job most of the time. This is part of the tweaking process you may need to do afterwards in Photoshop. Then click OK:

This dialog box will come up next. This step might take some time, so be patient:

Your picture will open, but it won’t look right. That’s ok. It’s not processed yet. You can hover you mouse across the image to see a small preview of what the process will do. The small preview box is in the top left corner of the page. Your next step is to click on the Tone Mapping button:

As the Photomatix site says, tone mapping reveals the details in highlights and shadows contained in the original HDR image. It converts the HDR image in 32 bits/channel mode into an image in 16 or 8 bits/channel mode that can be saved as TIFF or JPEG.

Now you’re ready to play with some sliders and tabs. Every image is different, so this process is a matter of taste. It all depends on what you want as an end result. Use the controls on the Tone Mapping Settings palette to adjust the tone mapped image to your liking. There are no general rules for the settings. Try both tone mapping methods with your image:

The Details Enhancer method increases local contrast. This has the effect of boosting shadows and creating an artistic effect. Increasing local details makes noise artifacts more visible. The Tone Compressor method produces a more “photographic” look, and avoids noise and halo artifacts:

Once you are satisfied with the tone mapping method and settings, click on the Process button. The final tone mapped image is in 16 bits/channel mode. When you save the image, you can choose to save it as 8-bit JPEG. Saving as 16-bit TIFF is recommended for further processing. The tone mapping progress bar will appear while it’s processing your image:

Remember to save your final image before you close the program.

My last step is some tweaking in Photoshop. That will be in a future post. Have fun!

error: Sorry, but images are protected on this site.